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Ransomware is malware that locks a victim’s files and displays a message demanding payment in exchange for the decryption key. It can be delivered via phishing attacks and other malicious code, or exploited through vulnerabilities in outdated software applications. According to the 2022 Unit 42 Incident Response Report, 48% of ransomware cases start with software vulnerabilities.

Some attackers target specific markets or organizations that appear to be more likely to pay a ransom. For example, hospitals and other medical organizations are tempting targets because attackers know that lives may be at stake and that these orgs often lack the resources to revert back to normal quickly. Similarly, attackers have found success with targeting law firms and other enterprises that are more likely to pay a ransom to keep sensitive data confidential.

Once an organization is infected with ransomware, the first step is to quarantine the affected machine so it cannot spread to other systems or connected drives. This requires disabling network access and possibly powering down the machine. Next, prioritize which systems must be restored based on the impact to productivity and revenue. Creating backups and performing a root-cause analysis are also essential steps to take to mitigate the effects of an attack.

The most effective way to reduce the risk of a ransomware attack is to update software and operating systems to the latest versions. In addition, implement a security awareness program that educates employees on common social engineering tactics and how to avoid them. Regular penetration testing and vulnerability scanning can also help detect and mitigate the risks of a ransomware attack.